NEW YORK (Sep. 7)
The American Jewish Congress filed a friend-of-the-court brief with a state court here this week in behalf of Orthodox Jews who want the Legislature to repeal a law permitting the use of churches as polling places.
According to the AJ Congress brief, New York is the only state where church buildings are used for voting purposes and this practice “effectively disenfranchises” many Orthodox Jews who refuse to enter church premises because of their religious beliefs. The AJ Congress intervened in a case brought to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals here by Morris Berman, a New York resident, against the city’s Board of Elections, Attorney General Louis J. Lefkowitz and Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller.
According to Leo Pfeffer, special counsel for the AJ Congress, the case raised “an important constitutional question in the field of religious freedom.” He said his organization “opposes the use of sectarian premises for polling places in government elections as a violation of the principle of separation of church and state. We think it high time for the legislature of New York to repeal the law allowing this practice.” The brief noted that state election authorities refused to provide alternative means of voting for Mr. Berman such as an absentee ballot or permission to cast his vote in a neighboring election district.